Students develop leadership skills while serving the community
It seemed like the typical first-day-of-class routine as 10 students listened intently to the instructor discuss the semester’s objectives and assignments. Suddenly, a detail was mentioned that made the students realize this was a dramatically different course.
The students were to fill a need equivalent to $1,000 (by raising money and donating their time) for a local nonprofit organization. This would be the core of the newly introduced Level II leadership class; all lessons would be built from it.
“They breathe pretty heavy when they hear $1,000,” said Tim Peterson, associate dean for the College of Business and instructor for the course.
Although the initial reaction was one of overwhelming disbelief, the students in the inaugural course last spring not only met the requirement, but far exceeded it through teamwork, creative problem solving and hard work.
One of the two, five-person teams called “Subvene Inc.,” meaning to help or support, purchased a new 14-foot by six-foot trailer with custom decals, valued at more than $6,000, for Hope Inc. A nonprofit organization based in Moorhead, Minn., Hope Inc. provides social and recreational activities for youth with mobility impairments, as well as support and networking for their families.
The team raised money by setting up donations at local credit unions and selling “Hope” wristbands. They also put in sweat equity by transporting and trading an old trailer with two flat tires that previously had been stored in a field. They received a discount on the decals by helping to apply them to the back of the trailer.
The other team, named SEEDS, an acronym for team members’ names and a metaphor for planting success, arranged for speaker Scott Shickler, co-founder of the Magic Wand Foundation, to come to Fargo to address nearly 3,000 area high school students in April. The foundation helps young people identify their passion and take accountability for their own success. His presentations had a value of approximately $50,000.
In exchange for Shickler’s presentations, the students agreed to raise $3,250 to send three students to the foundation’s Ultimate Life Summit in July. The students raised the money through donations from area businesses, including a major contribution of $2,500 from Dakota Medical Foundation.
Peterson, who designed the leadership course for the College of Business, said it helps students develop coveted leadership skills through challenging, interactive projects. At the end of the course, students not only can define leadership, they also embody it.
Peterson intends for both classes to target first-year students so they can hone their skills before entering the working world. “If I could teach this to freshmen, they could practice for four years, and when they leave, the only thing that changes is the context,” he said.
Stephanie Johnston, a sophomore from Hawley, Minn., said the Leadership Level II course, along with Leadership Level I, changed her as a person, and she strongly encourages other students to enroll in them.
“They honestly have been the best classes I have ever taken. I’ve learned more in those classes than any other,” Johnston said. “They develop you as a person. You’re not just cramming for an exam and then forgetting it. They’re structured in a way that you’re learning, but then also doing what you’re learning, so you’ll remember it.”